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The Need for an Equitable L.A. River Revitalization

Jon Christensen urges Los Angeles to ensure that new park amenities serve, rather than displace, the river's low-income communities.
March 2, 2018, 8am PST | Elana Eden
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Jeff Houze

As Los Angeles solicits public input on a park considered a key piece of the L.A. River revitalization, Jon Christensen ponders whether the city can achieve an "equitable and just greening." In a piece for CityLab, he offers more questions than answers about how to ensure the future of the low-income communities surrounding the river project.

While green spaces and parks yield important benefits to those with access to them, "improved parks, like other positive amenities—cool retail, coffee shops, fresh produce—are correlated with gentrification, in some cases," he writes.

That's a problem that Los Angeles will have to contend with as the promise of a naturalized river attracts real-estate investment that could threaten existing residents. Recently, the core community group Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR)—whose decades of advocacy helped mainstream the revitalization effort—opposed a major housing development on the waterfront that didn’t include enough affordable units.

Last year, FOLAR published a guide to riverfront development focused on equity and affordability. Still, Christensen laments:

"Right now, we don’t have any really good models for inclusive green development that can lift up communities in place while providing the access to nature, open space, and recreational opportunities that we know are so important to the health of people and their neighborhoods."

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 in CityLab
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